Activism, Italian Vogue style

Franca Sozzani

Franca Sozzani -- Getty Images

Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani has just taken a big step out from behind the glossy curtain, and decided to launch an online campaign to close down pro-anorexia sites. She was spurred by a survey at the University of Haifa that concluded Facebook was to blame for the rise in eating disorders; Ms Sozzani investigated, and reached a different conclusion. Her call to action was posted on her blog today; this is an excerpt:

“On Facebook users share everything and for sure will make comments on anorexia, make fun of it or encourage it: yet exclusively pro-anorexia blogs and websites in my opinion are much more dangerous. There [are] countless of them and their number is growing in America and are active in all countries. They have weird names and…provide a kind of open confessional supporting those who are unable to carry on by themselves along a road that can only lead to death. I believe that if we must take action to protect these young people…We must get moving and ask for these sites and blogs to be shut down…Sign our petition to collect signatures against pro-anorexia websites. Share the initiative on Facebook and invite your friends to join in.”

It’s an interesting cause for a fashion mag to take on. After all, it’s those very fashion mags that are constantly being accused by people like the body-image-conscious UK Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone of being responsible for young girls’ distorted sense of self. Here’s what Ms Sozzani has to say to that:

“Models, as I have underlined before, are in most cases naturally long, lean and slender being still very young and still not fully developed. The image they convey, however, is often that of an excessive thinness, but designers themselves discard those who are visibly suffering from nutritional problems. This is a topic that has been often discussed with false prejudice against fashion when nobody was left to blame.”

Tell it like it is!

Honestly, having spent a few years in the beauty world and numerous weekends with a group of 16-18 year old “new” models for various “new model” stories, I agree with her on this.

I also think the decision to go on the offensive, as opposed to the traditional industry reaction when accused of size-ism, which is defensive (designer associations keep signing pieces of paper saying they believe in taking care of their models) is a pretty smart strategy, really: if you can’t beat ‘em, move the battle to an entirely different front. Ms Sozzani has clearly been reading her Sun Tzu.